‘Haven’t you any smaller houses?’ An escaped lunatic at the duke’s front door

York or Stafford House, St James's Park, London

In the early hours of the morning the night porter at Stafford House, (the Duke of Sutherland’s London home), was summoned by the ringing of the front door bell. When he opened the door a man was stood there, looking distracted and disheveled, and who claimed to be the Duke himself.

Clearly he wasn’t the aristocrat in question and the porter told him to go away. Moments later he was back again trying to gain access through one of the downstairs windows. The porter called the police.

When PC 447A questioned him the man again insisted he was the duke and said he’d been out with the Prince of Wales and thought it best to get in by a window than to disturb the household via the front door. The constable was unconvinced by the man’s explanation, thought it likely he was mad, and arrested him.

Back at the police station the police doctor was called and he pronounced the man to ‘be insane’ after which he was locked up prior to being taken before Mr Flowers at Bow Street Police court in the morning.

In court he was alleged to be a wandering ‘lunatic’ by the name of Walter Trower. He was 21 years of age and described as being ‘well dressed’. The magistrate asked him if he had anything to say or any questions to ask. Trower simply continued to insist he was the Duke of Sutherland and that he had been out with the Prince of Wales. However, he clarified this to say that the prince was ‘with me’ adding that: ‘I believe that under the lunacy laws I am the Prince’s sovereign’.

Mr Flowers told him that he would be remanded in custody while investigations into his background were conducted. ‘Of course you will allow me to stop at Stafford House in the meanwhile?’ Trower asked.

Sadly not, the magistrate explained, but he assured him he would be very comfortable in the house of detention. ‘Well sir’ the defendant enquired, ‘if not there [Stafford House] I have other houses in London. The Duke of Portland’s house in Cavendish Square is also mine. I could stop there’.

‘Haven’t you any smaller houses?’ Flowers asked him, drawing laughter from his watching courtroom audience. ‘No, sir I am afraid I have not’ said Trowers before he was led away to the cells. Soon afterwards Inspector Horsley from A Division appeared to confirm that the poor man had escaped from an asylum in Peckham and Mr Flowers instructed that he should be taken back there as soon as was possible.

[from The Illustrated Police News, Saturday, June 27, 1874]

On June 15 Drew’s new book (co-authored by Andy Wise) was published by Amberley Books. It is a new study of the Whitechapel murders of 1888 which offers up a new suspect, links the ‘Jack the Ripper’ killings to the unsolved ‘Thames Torso’ crimes, and provides the reader with important contextual history of Victorian London. The book is available to order on Amazon here

Be careful who you drink with, and how much you imbibe! A cautionary tale from the 1820s.


Bow Street Police Office, c.1825 (by J. Winston)

In 1827 the Metropolitan Police were still a pipe dream; Peel may well have envisaged them but there was still considerable resistance to the idea of a state run uniformed police force in England. In London policing was still the responsibility of the parish and the Police Offices staffed by ‘runners’, the principal one being at Bow Street.

In May of that year several persons turned up at the Registrar’s Office in Chancery Lane, to receive the confirmation and certificates for a legacy that had been rumbling through the civil court for some time. William Jones had finally got his hands on his inheritance, a sum of £355 16and 2d. That was a considerable and potentially life-changing amount of money in 1827, representing about £24,000 today. That equated to about 6 years’ wages for a skilled craftsman.

William was accompanied to the registrars (and then to the Bank of England) by his wife, his younger brother, and a Thomas Jones (who ‘was in some degree related to him’). The group were joined by Jones’ solicitor and his clerk. At the bank the legacy was paid out in five £50 notes, some £20 and a large amount of coin.

Having secured his fortune William Jones now invited his family and friends to dine with him at a chophouse in Mansion House street before some of the party went on to a pub in Welbeck Street, off Cavendish Square. There the celebrations began in earnest and it seems the drink was flowing. until late in the evening.

Finally William, much the worse for drink, was bundled into a cab with his wife, brother and Thomas Jones and ferried back to his home in Draper’s Court, London Wall where he was helped to his bed.

In the morning he awoke with a sore head. That much was expected but much worse was the discovery that some of his money was missing. He’d lost one £50 note and two £20s. That might not sound much to us but it was about £6,000; he certainly hadn’t run up that sort of a bill in the pub!

He immediately went back to the Bank of England and, having been wise enough to note down the numbers of the bank notes, had the stopped. later that day one of the notes was tendered in payment for some boots at a shop in Oxford Street and the notes were traced because the purchaser had been required to give his name and address.

All of this investigation was carried out by Mr Jones not by the police, and he managed to find out that the thief was none other than his ‘some degree’ relative, Thomas Jones.  Since Thomas gave his real address, in Praed Street, Paddington, he was quickly apprehended by an officer from Bow Street (a ‘runner’) and brought before the magistrate. He was committed for trial at the Old Bailey where he was acquitted.

I can only imagine the jury were unconvinced by the evidence presented which, while it seemed to prove that Jones had tried to spend the missing money, did not really show that he had stolen it. It therefore wasn’t beyond ‘all reasonable doubt’ and the young man got away with it.  Of course it may be that the jury were simply jealous of Jones’ good fortune and, with typical English mean spiritedness, quite glad to see that he’d lost his money when he’d allowed himself to be robbed whilst in a state of inebriation. ‘Serves him right’, they might have concluded.

[from The Morning Post , Thursday, May 10, 1827]

A brave young woman resists a sexual assault on Hackney Downs



Earlier this month we lost Jill Saward, one of the vociferous and determined campaigners for the rights of victims of sexual assault. Jill was the 21 year-old daughter of a vicar when she was raped by intruders in their Ealing vicarage home in 1986. Jill’s courage and persistence was instrumental in bringing about important cages to the way rape is prosecuted in this country.

Rape is still underreported and far too many women (and some men) suffer in silence but things have improved since the 1980s. In the 19th century rape and sexual assault were just as hard to prove but in addition women and girls were hamstrung by the prevailing patriarchal philosophy that saw women as inferior and subject to the care and ‘protection’ of men.

When the courts did act on rape it was often in reaction to the sexual assault of young girls and women of the middle-class; poor working-class girls were not often protected by the law even after the death penalty was removed from rape after 1841.

So when a foreigner – a lascar sailor named ‘John Williams’ – was set in the dock at Worship Street for committing a ‘daring outrage’, I was not surprised to learn that his victim was only 14.

Catherine Mather (a ‘remarkably fine and sedate-looking little girl’) was walking with her father to visit her grandmother, who lived near Hackney Downs. As they passed the Downs   her father (a dissenting minister who kept a house at Welbeck Street, Cavendish Square) stopped for a moment while she carried on.

I think what happened next would be every parent’s nightmare.

As she turned a corner and went up a lane she was now out of sight of her father. There she saw a young man who had the appearance of a lascar, south east Asian sailors who had made their homes in several English cities, London and Liverpool in particular.

Williams was eating from a  biscuit and as Catherine approached he held out his hand and offered her some of his meal. ‘Will you have a bit?’ he asked. But before she could refuse he grabbed at her, threw her to the ground and thrust his hand up her skirts.

This was the evidence Catherine gave in court while her father stood watching her. It must have taken great maturity for the young girl to compose herself, and this was not lost on the court reporter.

Williams then attempted ‘further indecencies’ which Catherine managed to resist by ‘seizing his long black hair with one hand, and his hairy lip with the other’. He bit her but she held on long enough for her father to catch up and help. She rushed off to find a policemen while the Reverend tussled with her attacker.

In court Rev. Mather (as a member of a dissenting church) refused to swear on the Bible and so was unable to give his version; the sailor tried to pretend he spoke no English and so couldn’t understand what he was charged with. Catherine was very clear that he had addressed her in English by the Downs and the court believed her.

Williams was indicted for assault with intent to have carnal knowledge of Catherine and appeared at the Old Bailey on 4 February 1850. In common with reporting of cases of a sexual nature the Proceedings merely relates the charge, the verdict (guilty) and the sentence. Williams was sent to prison for 6 months.


[from The Morning Post, Wednesday, January 23, 1850]

The ‘extraordinary conduct’ of an artist

Edward Hawker had a peculiar obsession, or fetish. At least that’s how we might view this case that reached the Marlborough Street Police Court in early August 1860.

Hawker was an artist ‘and modeller’ and he took a very proactive interest in securing the perfect model for his work. Sadly for him his attempts to create the perfect sculpture of the female form were not appreciated by two ‘respectable’ ladies he approached separately that summer.

1889-06 Petersons dress2

Elizabeth Dolby was promenading along Duke Street (near Manchester Square) when Hawker stopped her. He informed her that her bootlace was undone and then drooped to one knee, took up her foot and placed it on his knee. The magistrate asked Elizabeth if her lace was indeed undone: ‘no Sir’, she replied.

She told the court that Hawker explained that he was a shoemaker and that she ‘had very high insteps’. She asked him to let her go, and he did. But when she reached Edward Street he did same thing again, and this time she called for a policeman had had him arrested.

Charlotte Neale had had a very similar encounter with the artist. She had been out in Cavendish Square (not very far from where Hawker accosted Elizabeth)  when the stranger also approached her and took hold of her leg using the same excuse.

In court the magistrate was told that Hawker had a previous history of behaving like this and had been prosecuted and punished before. His excuse was that he had once been walking in Regent’s Street when a lady asked him to tie her bootlace. When he lifted her leg he saw that it was ‘so beautifully formed that immediately upon his return home he made a model of it from memory’. Ever since he had been trying to discover ‘if another  leg was to be met with in the world’.

Quizzed about his actions in court Hawker denied all of it and said he was merely stopping the women in the hope of having ‘a little conversation with them’, he meant no harm. The magistrate didn’t see it that way and called his behaviour ‘shameful’. It was the duty of the court, he continued, to protect women from the likes of him. Hawker was fined 20s for each of the two offenses or 21 days in the house of correction. He paid the fine.

Edward Hawker may have been an innocent if misguided man who found it hard to approach women in more ‘normal’ circumstances, but he might also have a been a ‘sex pest’. I suspect also that his love of the female foot and leg suggests that he was a fetishist, possibly harmless but in these case certainly disturbing or at the least, annoying.

[From The Morning Chronicle, Friday, August 3, 1860]